April 6, 2009 6:13 PM   Subscribe

How can you evaluate a lawyer before hiring him?
posted by page123 to Law & Government (7 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
You can check the state bar to see if any complaints have been filed against him or her.

Depends on the kind of lawyer you're hiring though.

If you know what court you're going to be in, you might try asking the bailiff. They tend to see both good and bad lawyers in action.

Communication is the number one complaint lawyers get from their clients. If the lawyer seems to be organized and has a nice secretary and you feel you can get a hold of them when you need to, then they're probably a decent attorney.

Of course, there are great lawyers that lack people skills. However, that's the exception and not the rule.
posted by abdulf at 6:27 PM on April 6, 2009

The best way is to ask around. Ask your friends who they've used and if they'd recommend him or her. You can also use to get the lay of the land and then call around.
posted by lockestockbarrel at 6:35 PM on April 6, 2009

Bonus tip from a Columbia law professor to his students- when dealing with a new lawyer, get the hourly rate in righting from the senior partner. And don't hesitate to quibble over what you think is an unfair bill. (He did not suggest you share this perspective with civilians- though one of the students, disgusted with the attitude, did so with me.)
posted by IndigoJones at 6:55 PM on April 6, 2009

Martindale Hubbel provides ratings, they are OK. The best info is like any other profession, ask other lawyers. "Who is the best lawyer for x? Who would you use?"
posted by caddis at 7:01 PM on April 6, 2009

If I had no other information to go on, I think I'd look at how they present themselves. Their offices and mode of dress (not so much stylistically but qualitatively). I would expect that a desirable attorney would have one office that they work out of every day, one or two support staff, dress well and seem busy, but not overwhelmed. My reasoning is that such an attorney would have to be doing a good enough business to support all of that, but also still need to work.

My own personal experience with various professionals at that level says that this is a pretty good plan. People with multiple offices all over the place usually don't work out well. Nor do people with one ratty office with shit piled up everywhere and the phone never ringing.

I'd also look at how they talk to me when we meet- if anyone says things like "slam dunk" or "no brainer", I'd run away. If it was that easy, I'd be able to solve them problem myself. I'd look for someone who was able to understand my problem, lay out the issues at hand and present their proposed plan of action. In English. Just like shopping for any other service or product, I'd run away if I started getting buzzworded or otherwise bullshitted.

I personally would stay away from "firms" beyond a few practicing attorneys, unless I had a really big case that demanded that sort of service.

I guess what I'm saying is that no matter what, you don't want to be the attorney's biggest or smallest client. Either way, you aren't going to get the kind of representation you need.

Obviously, this method is rife with error, but with nothing to go on, it's better than nothing.
posted by gjc at 7:17 PM on April 6, 2009

Please disregard gjc. Many well-respected law firms have tons of offices and the nature of legal work is of being continually slammed. The normal rules of business simply do not apply.

I would ask for referrals both from other lawyers and from former clients. When you ask the lawyer initial questions, find out about their track record with similar cases and ask if you can follow up with some of those clients. The fee agreement should be easy to understand and the lawyer should be very up front about what kind of interaction to expect. If there's pressure or there seems to be no support staff to speak of, walk away.
posted by mynameisluka at 9:29 PM on April 6, 2009

To add, have a consult with the prospective attorney but don't feel like you have to hire them at that point. When I first meet a client, I tell them that the purpose of the consult is not only to help me learn about the case but it also is an opportunity for the client to interview me. It is so important to have a good relationship with your attorney, so use the consult as a way to figure out if you can work with the person. If you don't feel comfortable with the attorney, don't hire the attorney.
posted by miss meg at 9:53 PM on April 6, 2009

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